Hamas policeman and Egyptian soldier
A Hamas policeman (R) standing in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on the border with Egypt, on 5 July 2013, talks to an Egyptian soldier standing in the Egyptian side of the border © AFP file
Hamas policeman and Egyptian soldier
Last updated: February 1, 2015

What's going on in Egypt? Here's a roundup of the latest spike in political violence.

Banner Icon Egyptian air forces strike against Islamic State-affiliated Sinai groups and a Cairo court labels Hamas wing a "terror" organization. Jacob Wirtschafter reports from the capital.

A Cairo newspaper reported that Egypt’s Air Force struck multiple targets in the North Sinai Friday as President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi summoned the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) for an urgent strategy session in the capital.

Sisi cut short his attendance at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa after three simultaneous explosions hit security targets around El-Arish Thursday killing at least 30 soldiers and civilians. 

First accounts of air strikes on Islamist bases in Sinai were published in the daily Watan and confirmed by the Al Arish stringer for the Saudi owned Al-Arabiya network.

Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis claimed responsibility for the attacks via Twitter.

THE GROUP RECENTLY rebranded itself as “Sinai Province” as it pledged loyalty to the larger Islamic State movement, which has taken large swaths of Syrian and Iraqi territory.

Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab and Defense Minister Sedqi Sobhi attended a military funeral for soldiers and policemen killed in Thursday’s “Sinai Province” attacks.

"Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis claimed responsibility for the attacks via Twitter"

Showcasing the pronounced ecumenical thrust of the Sisi administration, Coptic priests stood next to Al Azhar imams at the Cairo memorial ceremony held Friday.

“Sinai Province” said the attacks were retribution for the government’s harsh measures against supporters of former President Mohamed Morsi and Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood organization.

A student at al-Azhar University was killed and five others injured in Friday clashes between Muslim Brotherhood supporters and Security Forces.

The Ministry of Interior announced the arrest of 132 pro-Brotherhood protestors who have called for demonstrations through February 11, which will be the fourth anniversary of the overthrow of former President Hosni Mubarak.

While the Muslim Brotherhood’s English language Twitter account distanced the organization from the North Sinai attacks, statements on its main Arabic website called on supporters to “prepare to summon all our strength and evoke the meaning of jihad.

“We ask for martyrdom,” concluded the Brotherhood’s statement.

MEANWHILE unidentified assailants shot a Coptic Christian employee of the North Sinai's traffic administration in Al-Arish Saturday.

The independent daily Aswat Masriya quoted police sources claiming the man was “shot in the head in front of his family under the pretext of his cooperation with security apparatus.”

Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis group released a video in August showing the beheading of four Egyptians accused of supplying intelligence to Israel.

An Egyptian court ruled to declare the al-Qassam Brigades a terror organization Saturday, banning the group’s activities less than a week after another panel of judges dropped a case against the political wing of Hamas.

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Cairo’s Court of Urgent Matters made the ruling after finding al-Qassam Brigades complicit in several attacks on Egyptian soil, including an assault on a Sinai security checkpoint last October that killed 30 soldiers.

Senior Hamas official Salah Bardawil rejected Egypt’s claims that his organization is involved in cross-border arms procurement and logistic support for the Sinai attacks.

“Egyptian media accusations against Hamas stem from either ignorance, hatred or collaboration with Israeli occupation,” Bradawil told the Gaza daily Alresalah.

Sources close to Cairo officials dismiss Hamas’ pleas of innocence.

“Hamas is behind the terrorism in Egypt – look we take it as a logic issue – we consider Hamas as the military wing of the Muslim Brotherhood – it’s not a Palestinian organization,” said Saaed Okasha, analyst at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.

"Sources close to Cairo officials dismiss Hamas’ pleas of innocence"

“The Egyptian people now consider the Muslim Brotherhood in a war against Egypt and we consider Hamas as a political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood,” Okasha told Your Middle East.

EVEN BEFORE Friday’s attacks, Religious Endowments (Akwaf) Minister Mokhtar Gomaa demanded revocation of Egyptian citizenship for Muslim Brotherhood members found guilty of promoting violence.

"We are calling for, and continue to call for, the stripping of citizenship from such criminals. This is an honor that they do not deserve," Gomaa declared Tuesday on the privately owned, pro-Sisi channel Capital Broadcasting. 

Gomma’s proposals keenly echo measures urged by Prime Minister Netanyahu to revoke citizenship of Israeli – Arab Islamists after November’s riots in Kafr Kanna. 

"Such individuals are traitors and agents, and they do not deserve the honor of belonging to this country." 

Jacob Wirtschafter
Jacob is currently based in Cairo with Associated Reporters Abroad, and has covered the Middle East from the Gulf to North Africa. He was the Managing Editor of Syria Direct in Amman, Deputy Bureau Chief for ABC News in Israel, and the Tel Aviv reporter for The Jerusalem Post.
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